A select group of six AMCHAM members led by the Tamil Nadu Chapter Chairman, R. Ramkumar, met with Mr. Joseph Pomper, Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs, U.S. Embassy Mr. Charles Louma D’Overstreet, Chief of Consular Services and Vice Consul Nathan Leonard at the Taj Coromandel on 8th March 2017, to exchange notes on the recent developments on the U.S. visa situation.
Mr. Pomper gave an overview of the current developments on U.S. immigration and clearly mentioned that it is only the Congress which can make laws or effect any changes in the current immigration policy of the U.S. government. He added that consular work is bipartisan and as the executive they would have to implement the law. He further stated that it would not be proper to comment on the bills in Congress related to the H1B visa regime.
Mr. Pomper said that 27 out of the 60 additional visa officers are already at work, but due to the freeze on federal hiring it may take a while to augment positions. His advice to all travelers to the U.S. is to apply for a US visa now, if they do not already have one. The current wait period is 15 days and this could increase in the coming months. He also said that the U.S. has over 165,000 students from India currently studying in the U.S. and this number is the second highest after China.
On the H1B visa, Mr. Pomper said that any change is subject to legislation and it would be risky for those whose visa has expired to remain in the U.S. It is best to return to India and get a fresh stamp and the process is not retroactive. Mr. Pomper also mentioned that the focus of any change is on numbers and market forces, such as salary levels. A person holding a degree from a U.S. university has a better chance of employment in the U.S. and that the U.S. is still a preferred destination for higher education.
In response, AMCHAM members stated that their companies would comply with the laws in force and that the present developments have created a great deal of anxiety amongst those Indians living in the U.S. on a non-immigrant visa status.
Mr. Pomper requested AMCHAM to send a message to all employees and families that there is no need to be overly concerned and sought AMCHAM assistance to allay fears of the Indians living there.
Accordingly, AMCHAM has published the following VISA UPDATE in the daily news alert which is circulated to all members:
U.S. Visa Update
As advised by the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy, all business travelers, tourists and students are requested to apply for their Non-Immigrant U.S. Visa as early as possible. The current wait time is around 15 days and is expected to be longer as the busy season begins.
Changes, if any, in the H1B immigrant visa is subject to legislation. There is no need for anxiety on this score. Current holders of the H1B visa employed in the USA whose visa validity is nearing expiry or has expired are advised that it is best to return to India and renew the visa, which will be processed under the current rules. It may not be possible to predict what changes will be made, if and when, the bills currently in Congress are made into law. Staying back in the USA with a visa that has expired is risky.
The U.S. continues to be the most preferred destination for Indian students who wish to study PG and doctoral programs. In the recent past several Indian students have secured admission for UG courses too. Students are welcome to plan for their higher studies in the USA, which has many reputed institutions offering a wide choice of course of study. Students who have higher education certification from a U.S. university stand a better chance of employment in the U.S.A.
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